Dogsong is a coming-of-age tale of a 14-year-old young man, Russel. Russel is an Inuit who is caught up in a society that is slowly forgetting its Inuit traditions in favor of new ways of living and beliefs. At the beginning of the book, Russel could best be characterized as angry, restless, and confused. Perhaps confused is the best single word to describe him, because he doesn't understand why he is restless and angry.
Several things happen throughout the book that help Russel's demeanor and outlook change. In many instances, these changes are subtle. However, when the sum of all of these subtle changes is considered, it is obvious that Russel has significantly changed from the beginning of the book to the end.
Some of the major changes include:
• At the beginning of the book, Russel feels there is something wrong with the way things are now, though he is not able to articulate it. As he comes closer to nature and to his cultural roots, he begins the realization process that he longs to live the way that Inuits used to live.
• At first, Russel has difficulty trusting the dogs with whom he is traveling. When his lack of trust in them leads to the group getting lost, he instead chooses to trust them. As he does so, he finds that the dogs are able to guide him. Gradually, he and the dogs are on the same wavelength and he is essentially able to be of one mind with them.
• When Russel first leaves Oogruk and finds himself alone with just the dogs and his weapon, he is terrified. However, as Russel begins to trust the his own instincts, he begins to thrive in his surroundings. He finds that he can be the kind of man he wants to be.